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July 09, 2013
As deadline approaches, United States and Canada partner on HazCom changes

OSHA and its Canadian counterpart are collaborating on new global hazard communication requirements that kick in with a training deadline in December. OSHA and Canada’s Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch will work together to reduce barriers to implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling, known as GHS.

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OSHA aligned its hazard communication standard with GHS in March 2012. The goal is to provide a common, understandable approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. The first GHS deadline requires U.S. employers to conduct new training on the label elements and safety data sheets (SDSs) by December 1 of this year.

OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels says both the GHS and the new Canadian agreement will help “provide concise information to protect those exposed to hazardous chemicals.”

GHS requirements kick in soon

The GHS is an international approach to hazard communication that will provide criteria for classifying chemical hazards and a standardized approach to label elements and SDSs.

OSHA has modified its hazard communication standard to align with the GHS, providing more effective communications on chemical hazards. OSHA’s old Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard was performance-based, allowing chemical makers and importers to convey information in any format they chose. But the GHS uses a more standardized approach.

The consistent format of SDSs will enable employers, workers, health professionals, and emergency responders to access information more efficiently and effectively.

Adoption of the GHS is also expected to help improve understanding of information received from other countries, as the United States is a major importer and exporter of chemicals.

Major changes to bring the HazCom standard into compliance with the GHS include:

  • Hazard classification. Definitions of hazards have been changed to provide specific criteria for classifications of health and physical hazards as well as classifications of mixtures.
  • Labels. Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and a hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
  • Safety data sheets. Sheets will now have a specific 16-section format.
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